Ukraine captures DPR anti-air commander in Snizhne near MH17 crash site

Ukrainian intelligence forces have captured Vladimir Tsemakh, a former air defense commander in the separatist-controlled city of Snizhne, which is close to where the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in 2014.

According to BBC’s Russian service, Tsemakh was arrested in his apartment in Snizhne on 27 July. According to his relatives and attorney, Ukrainian intelligence officers took him to Kyiv-controlled territory, where he was placed under arrest for two months.

“On 28 June, the Day of Ukraine’s Constitution, he was taken to Kyiv, and on 29 June the Shevchenkivskyi District Court of Kyiv decided to arrest him for two months. No appeal date has been set yet,” his attorney Roman Gontarev is cited as saying.

According to BBC, Tsemakh has been accused of “creating a terrorist group or a terrorist organization”, and could face 8-15 years in prison.

His daughter told the news outlet in an interview that her father’s arrest is related to the fact that he was “head of the air defense” in Snizhne during the period when the MH17 catastrophe took place.

“They now want to pin the Boeing [incident] on him. But he was the air defense boss from October 2014, he was simply the only specialist of the kind. When the Boeing was shot down, he was not the key figure, only an ordinary soldier, and simply stood at a roadblock. He went out to fight, as did all the supporters of peaceful life in our land,” commented Maria Tsemakh.

The Ukrainian security service has not yet made any public announcement about Tsemakh’s arrest in eastern Ukraine. The headquarters of the Joint Forces Operation also declined to comment.

The city of Snizhne is located about 20 km from Russian border. According to the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) investigating the incident, a missile was fired at the aircraft from a Buk system in the region of Pervomaiske, a village 6 km south of Snizhne. At the time of the tragedy, this area was controlled by pro-Russian militants.

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over the zone of Russia’s hybrid aggression in eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. All 298 people on board were killed.

At a press conference in June this year, the JIT revealed the names of four chief suspects believed to be responsible for the catastrophe: the three Russian citizens Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, Oleg “Caliph” Pulatov, Seregy “Gloomy” Dubinsky, and the Ukrainian citizen Leonid “Mole” Kharchenko.

The Bellingcat research group also published a new report on 19 June identifying the people who could have been involved in the downing of the airliner.

Officially Moscow does not admit any responsibility for the MH17 incident, and claims that the plane was shot down by a missile that had been delivered to Ukraine during the Soviet era.

  Ukraine, DPR, MH17, Netherlands